Experts Split on Authenticity of CBS's "Memos"? -- September 16, 2004 --
By: Clay Waters

Times Watch for September 16, 2004

Experts Split on Authenticity of CBS's "Memos"?

Jim Rutenberg and Kate Zernike run an update on CBS's apparently fraudulent "memos," "Network Says It Will Check Questions on Bush Files," but the story is again buried on the back pages of the Times. The Washington Post takes the story more seriously, putting the new developments on the front page with a story by media reporter Howard Kurtz.

The Times notes: "Inside the network, [anchor Dan] Rather's colleagues expressed growing alarm at questions about the documents' authenticity as Republicans in Washington declared CBS irresponsible and called for a retraction and even a Congressional investigation."

Yet, given the growing improbability that the documents are actually legitimate (and the fact that CBS itself has now adopted the "fake but factually accurate" angle), the Times employs an odd formulation to describe the controversy, insisting there's still room for doubt: "For every expert who said the documents were patently false, another insisted they could be authentic."

Rutenberg and Zernike used a similar line for their September 12 story: "For every expert who said the documents looked like the work of computers and could not have come from old-fashioned typewriters because of proportional spacing and some type features, there seemed to be another who said they could indeed have been authentic."

For the latest from the Times on memogate, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | CBS | Forged Documents | "60 Minutes" | Dan Rather | Jim Rutenberg | Vietnam | Kate Zernike

Burying Burkett's Bush-as-Hitler Line

Ralph Blumenthal files a semi-sympathetic profile of Bill Burkett, who some claim to be CBS's source for the discredited memos alleging George Bush shirked his Texas Air National Guard duties during Vietnam.

In "Ex-Guardsman Is Said to Be a CBS Source," Blumenthal relays past claims of intimidation made by Burkett: "In a book published this year, 'Bush's War for Re-election' by James Moore, Mr. Burkett is quoted as reporting having received numerous death threats, including telephone messages and a bullet with his name on it that he says he found in his mailbox. More recently, he told people that his son's car had been burned."

Blumenthal hints at Burkett's personal motives for attacking Bush: "The Guard gave him an assignment in Panama, where he contracted a tropical disease. In letters to state legislators and a later suit, he said he collapsed at the Abilene airport in 1998 and was 'willfully and maliciously' denied military medical care by Guard officials, worsening his condition. Before finally obtaining medical benefits in July 1998, he had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for depression, he told The Times. An appeals court dismissed his suit in August 2002 because commanders enjoy broad legal immunity from their troops."

Yet the Times doesn't go into less sympathetic parts of Burkett's background (which the Times also ignored when Burkett made similar accusations against Bush in February), like the conspiratorial opinion piece he wrote last year for the website Veterans for Peace which compares Bush to Adolf Hitler:

"And weapons of mass destruction will be discovered in great quantities; but the entire affair will stink to high heavens because it will be as staged as the White House press conference you just viewed. The human death toll will publicly not be mentioned, yet in truth, it will far exceed 120,000".Now I feel sickness that today another massive group of people, held worthless by this anointed king, will be trampled upon like grapes. But their blood will not be rendered into wine. It will be spilled into the sands of this desert or another, or on the streets of Washington, or in the halls of the US Congress, or in the courts".We must now revert to the history of Europe to discern what to do. We must study the nemesis of France and how Napoleon was felled before understanding the damage a tyrant does to a nation and society. We must examine the ruthless and dictatorial rise of yet another of the three small men--one whose name is not spoken out of fear of reprisal, but his name was Adolf."

For the rest of Blumenthal's profile of Burkett, click here.

" Bill Burkett | Ralph Blumenthal | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Forged Documents | "60 Minutes" | Vietnam

Kitty Kelley Finds a Cozy Home at the Times

The Times may not be putting a Republican-bashing Kitty Kelley biography on its front page (as it did in 1991). But Wednesday's front-page Arts section review of Kelley's latest "biography" is followed by a cover story on Kelley for Thursday's House & Home section. Frank Bruni's piece, "For the Queen of Expose, Four Walls That Won't Talk." is a too-cute way to inject Kelley's truly "unsubstantiated" allegations into the paper.

An over-the-fold photo of Kelley in the garden of her Georgetown home includes this caption: "Kitty Kelley, the tell-all biographer, may strike fear in her subjects, but the mood is consciously gentle at her Georgetown home, which she shares with topiary monkeys."

Bruni gushes: "Of all the terrifying things that a famous person can hear ('That young lady was a minor'; 'The ImClone stock is about to fall'), the scariest may be 'You're the subject of Kitty Kelley's next book.' The Bush family heard that about four years ago, and the nightmare is now at hand. 'The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty,' published by Doubleday this week, maintains that George W. Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David while his father was president. That he and Laura Bush once enjoyed 'heavy pot-smoking parties' on the island of Tortola. That Laura Bush was 'a go-to girl for dime bags of marijuana' back when she was a college student."

He writes: "She has surely reduced a few of her subjects or the people who care about them to tears. The pages of her books are rife with affairs, abortions, substance abuse. She said that all of that was fair game".More than 600 pages long, the Bush book is in many ways a thoroughly researched piece of work. Ms. Kelley clearly devoured and digested the extant literature on the family, and she recounts its history in a narrative that is largely unremarkable. But certain Kitty Kelley conventions pop up, like a fixation on women's weight problems and a willingness to attribute withering comments to unnamed sources."

For the rest of Bruni on Kelley and her "thoroughly researched piece of work," click here.

" Frank Bruni | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Kitty Kelley

Edwards As "Moderate," Plus More Misleading on Cheney

"Democrats Seek Louder Voice From Edwards--Firm Reaction Wanted to Cheney's Attacks," a page A1 story from Randal Archibold and Adam Nagourney on the invisible John Edwards, misleadingly labels the veep candidate as a moderate rather than a liberal: "At the time, Mr. Edwards was seen as a young-looking and vibrant counterpart to Mr. Kerry--a moderate Southerner with an appeal to rural voters that seemed particularly valuable to Mr. Kerry, who is from Massachusetts."

The Times' misreading of Cheney's war-on-terror speech continues as well: "But as Mr. Kerry finds himself behind in polls and under such relenting assault by Mr. Cheney--the vice president suggested last week that the election of Mr. Kerry would invite more terrorist attacks--some Democrats are recalculating that equation."

For more on the disappearing John Edwards, click here.

" Randal Archibold | Campaign 2004 | Dick Cheney | Sen. John Edwards | Gaffes | Labeling Bias | Adam Nagourney | Terrorism

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